Do Not Go Gentle (Guest Blogger)

It’s been a week since the election. I’ve shed some tears and done a lot of soul-searching, but aside from the shock wearing off a little, I feel almost exactly the same as I did when I posted last Wednesday. This fight is not over; in fact, it’s just beginning. It’s heartening to see and hear everyone from my family and friends to Saturday Night Live reiterating that sentiment.

Jeremy and I were very fortunate to spend the weekend with my sister, Alicia, and her awesome boyfriend, Caleb, in Chicago, where they live. We had a really wonderful time, and I will write all about it in my next post. But for today, I want to share a really fantastic piece Alicia wrote about her experiences the day after the election. (Content warning: A handful of curse words and a NSFW term quoted from Trump.)

Do Not Go Gentle by Alicia Wilson

I woke up Wednesday morning in a country that elected Donald J. Trump to be the actual, literal, president of the United States of America.

At that point, I still hadn’t quite figured out the words to express the full scope of my feelings about this happening. I was still in shock. I was still in disbelief. I felt like I still hadn’t woken up — I must have been still dreaming.

The first thing I did after I woke up was to check Facebook on my phone, as if to prove to myself that this wasn’t a nightmare I was stuck inside, it was really happening. The second thing I did after I woke up was cry.

I cried because I was scared. I cried because I was angry. I cried because I didn’t want to believe that this horrible thing had actually happened.

Do you remember the way you felt the first time you watched the Disney cartoon version of Cinderella when you were a kid? When the Royal Adviser is at Cinderella’s house to try the glass slipper on everyone’s feet, but the evil stepmother, Madame Tremaine, had Cinderella locked in her attic bedroom. That moment when the mice and birds and Bruno the dog are trying to get the door unlocked, and Lucifer the cat is trying to stop them; meanwhile downstairs the Royal Adviser is about to leave and Madame Tremaine is showing him out…Do you remember THAT feeling of injustice — of pure and unfettered anger at the unfairness of it all? That is how I had felt all day long. Except in this case Cinderella is Hillary Clinton, the mice and birds are most of the progressive left, Madame Tremaine is Trump, the Royal Adviser is the electoral college, Lucifer is FBI director James Comey, and Bruno is Bernie Sanders. (The evil stepsisters, by the way, are Mike Pence and Chris Christie, since in the Disney movie there was one sister who was genuinely vindictive and horrible while the other was pretty awful but also just seemed a little dumb and misguided.)

I felt like there was concrete in my chest weighing me down, making it hard to breathe.

I went to work and I felt like crying. My boyfriend met me when I was done at work so we could go grab some lunch and just do something. We felt like we had to move. We couldn’t just sit and stew in our grief and anger. We wanted to do something to make us feel better, to make us feel some kind of joy. So we ended up going to Water Tower Place, where we got lunch and indulged in a tiny bit of retail therapy. It didn’t help a lot, let alone solve anything, but we were at least trying to find some positivity and joy in the day, even if we had to work extremely hard to find it.

Once we got home, however, we started hearing our friends talking on Facebook about the protest that was going to be happening at Trump Tower from 5pm to 9pm. Now usually, I have a decent share of anxiety (social and otherwise), and often it can be hard for me to get out of the house to do things or make plans with friends, especially if I’ve already gone out and done active, social things that day. But I instantly knew we had to go. We couldn’t just sit at home while people were out making their voices and anger known. We had to be a part of it. So we jumped in an Uber and headed back downtown.

We were originally planning to go to Trump Tower itself, but once we got to Michigan, traffic slowed to a crawl. At first we thought it was just evening rush hour (it was around 6ish), but then we realized that the other side of the road was completely clear, no cars anywhere, and then we saw the huge crowd of protesters marching down the middle of the street. So our Uber driver suggested we just hop out there, told us to be safe, and wished us luck, and we got out and joined the crowd.

Almost immediately we ran into someone we knew, and we started walking beside her, joining in the chants of everyone else around us. Soon after, the protest group — which by this point was at least a thousand people — realized we were nearing the end of Michigan Avenue where it splits into Lake Shore Drive northward. So everyone began circling around, and instead of walking back up the street on the clear side of the road, we started walking up the traffic filled side, walking in between the cars and buses that couldn’t move anywhere.

Now this is where many people criticize protests and protesters, saying things like, “I’m fine if you want to protest, but don’t get in people’s way!” But what is the point of protesting if it doesn’t make people stop — often literally — so they can demand that people listen!? No one was hurt. Perhaps some drivers or passengers ended up being late to their destinations. But what a privileged complaint: “Oh no! I’m going to be late for my meeting thanks to those goddamn people trying to make sure everyone has basic human rights!”

The whole way back down Michigan we were marching in between cars and buses. People on the sidewalks had stopped to take pictures or film us, and we were yelling the whole time:

“PUSSY GRABS BACK! PUSSY GRABS BACK!”

“HEY HEY, HO HO, DONALD TRUMP HAS GOT TO GO!”

“NO HATE! NO KKK! NO MORE RACIST USA!”

“THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DIVIDED!”

Once we had reached the Wrigley building, we stopped and rallied for a while in the plaza that splits the two halves of the Wrigley building, right next door to Trump Tower. And about ten minutes later people began moving again. This time they kept moving south down Michigan to cross the river into the Loop. As we headed for the bridge, there was a line of protesters standing there with matching signs that said things like “Love Trumps Hate!”, “If you are Black we love you!”, “If you are Gay we support you!”, and “If you are Native American we stand with you!” and they were all giving out free hugs.

This, I feel, is a prime example of what this protest was about. It was NOT born from hate, as so many people (primarily Trump supporters) are trying to make it out to be. It was born out of a powerful combination of love and anger. Anger is not the same thing as hate. Even rage is not the same thing as hate. Hate can fuel anger, and anger can certainly evolve into hate, so they can go hand in hand, but they most certainly don’t have to exist together.

As I said, this protest was borne from love and anger. Those of us protesting are angry that our voices were silenced by the outdated electoral college system — the system that means that even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million votes, thanks to the electoral college system, Trump still got the presidency. Are you a little pissed right now, because that makes no sense? Same, dude, welcome to American politics. So we are angry that we are not being represented by our government. We are angry that the system is so massively fucked up that this is the result that we were left with. Hell, most of us were still angry that Bernie Sanders got screwed out of the election after the primaries, but that anger has now been compounded with our anger over this racist and xenophobic consequence.

We are angry that the candidate who was chosen by the electoral college to replace Barack Obama as Commander in Chief of the United States of America is a racist, sexist, misogynistic, transphobic, islamophobic, elitist, fear-mongering sexual assaulter and child rapist, whose running mate is famously homophobic and believes in conversion “therapy” and has passed or worked to pass countless pieces of legislation that denounce scientific facts and threaten the health and safety of more than half of the entire country. We are angry because we love. Because we love our friends and family who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, who are black, or Latinx, or female. We are angry because we love and care for these people in our lives, and we refuse to accept that they may soon be treated as less than human, or that the small bit of ground their groups have gained in recent years will soon be wiped away. Their lives matter and their lives are valuable.

So as we crossed the river, we marched. As we passed the Chicago Theater, we chanted. As we passed underneath the El tracks and headed north once more on Wabash, we stopped traffic. Most of the people we passed who were stuck in their cars on the street were hanging out of their doors and cheering right along with us, or rolling down their windows to high five us, or honking their horns in time with our chants. Because a majority of We The People are angry, and we refuse to accept this embarrassment to humanity as our ultimate political mouthpiece. Trump’s words will not be our words. His actions will not reflect on who we are as Americans.

As we reached the corner of Wabash and Wacker, at the river, we prepared to cross the bridge into the Trump Tower plaza. But there we were met with a line of police officers, many of them on horseback. The protesters got as close as the police would allow and then we stopped, and slowly the entire crowd began to sit in the middle of the street, in the middle of the intersection.

Around us more chants broke out, demonstrating the range of causes we were fighting to protect:

“BRICK BY BRICK, WALL BY WALL, DONALD’S HATE HAS GOT TO FALL!”

“NO HATE! NO FEAR! IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME HERE!”

“BLACK LIVES MATTER!”

“MUSLIM LIVES MATTER!”

“NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!”

“RAPE IS NOT A JOKE!”

Female protesters chanted, “OUR BODY; OUR CHOICE!”, and male protesters responded, “THEIR BODY; THEIR CHOICE!”

You could sense the anger from everyone around. But you could also sense the feeling of camaraderie, of a community. We all wanted to ensure the health and safety of everyone around us — at the protest, but just in life in general. We were all scared for our futures, but together we were strong. I had felt so helpless and hopeless earlier in the day. As I said, I had felt weighed down as if my chest were filled with concrete. But this had served to remove that feeling. I now knew that we would not sit idly by. We would fight and yell and make our voices heard, and that gave me the hope that I so desperately needed.

At one point — I honestly can’t be sure if it was instigated by protesters or by the cops themselves — the police began pushing back against the crowd, using their horses to force us back rather aggressively, and the crowd began to chant, “WHO DO YOU SERVE?” I feel the need to say here that I have great respect for the police. Their job is truly dangerous, and they are often called to protect people under frightening and uncertain circumstances. But to excuse racism, brutality, and fear-mongering within the ranks of police officers who have sworn to “protect and serve” the people is inexcusable and disgusting. I will also add here that one of my close friends who was at the protest reported that she overheard one of the cops encouraging drivers stopped in the street to “kill ‘em” when their cars approached protesters.

Thankfully, nothing actually violent ever broke out. For several minutes after that, things seemed to disperse as people figured out their next steps. My boyfriend and I and a few of our friends all paused for a while by the entrances to the River Walk across from Trump Tower, and we realized that most of us would have to call it a night because we had to work in the morning. So we decided to grab some food before heading home and we headed a few blocks away to a restaurant. But the protest continued on! They began marching south again, and eventually made their way onto Lake Shore Drive, shutting down the entire highway for nearly a mile!

While we were sitting at the restaurant, we realized the televisions in the restaurant were tuned to CNN, which was showing footage from the protests all over the country, including Chicago. A group of men sat down at the table behind us — all of them white, probably between forty and sixty-ish years old, and well-dressed or wealthy looking. They too were watching the footage of the protests, and seeing as I overheard one of them complaining about having to drive around forever trying to park thanks to “those losers,” I made a pretty informed assumption about which side of this they were likely on (spoiler alert: not ours). But we mostly tuned them out and continued enjoying our meal.

However, eventually, one of the men (probably around fifty-five or sixty and wearing a crisp white LaCosta button-down) referred to the TV and said, “Why didn’t those fuckers vote?”

You know that sound of a record scratching when it suddenly stops playing? Yeah. I swear to God I heard that sound.

I spun around in my chair — not unlike that scene from The Exorcist, only without the pea soup — and promptly informed him, “Excuse me. We did.”

Here’s how the rest of that conversation went:

Him: “How’d that work out for you?”

Me: “Do you have LGBTQIA friends? Do you have Latino friends? Do you have black friends?”

Him: “Yeah.”

Me: “And I’m assuming you voted for Donald Trump.”

Him: “Yeah.”

Me: “So you don’t actually care about any of those people? Because you voted for a man who literally thinks that those people shouldn’t have human rights. So you don’t actually care about their rights or their safety?”

Him: (sounding a bit embarrassed and trying to look around at his buddies for help) “No.”

Me: “Oh, well I guess you don’t have to. You’re white, and straight, and male, and I’m assuming you’re rich. You’re safe! You don’t need to worry, your rights aren’t being threatened. You’re all set — you’re good no matter what!”

Him: (by now his face and ears were beet red, and his answer was barely a mumble) “Yeah.”

My heart and adrenaline were racing (I am not typically a very confrontational person), and my blood was boiling, but I couldn’t just sit by and let them continue to think that our anger was unjustified because we’d done nothing. Our anger was because we HAD done something, and it had backfired through the corruption of the system. We soon got our checks and began getting up to leave the restaurant, but on our way out I told the guy to have a nice night and reminded him to get his white hood dry cleaned. Maybe not the classiest thing I could have said, but while a little aggressive, it definitely made my point.

Here’s one of the biggest problems with Trump as president: He gives the quiet and closeted racist a voice. He makes it so they no longer have to feel embarrassed or feel they need to speak in coded microaggressions. If they want to just come straight out and say they don’t like black people or immigrants or Muslims, they can, because the president said it was okay. He said it was okay to grab and sexually assault women — and he led these actions by example. He said it was okay to punch and violently assault black people and Muslims at his rallies. He literally asked them to do it and told them that he would pay the legal fees if they got in trouble for doing it.

Perhaps there is a speck of good to come from this public xenophobia. We now know who the closeted racists are. They can no longer hide because they’ve made themselves known loudly and proudly. And we will force them back. We will force them out. We will rise up against this hateful, fear-mongering leader and prove to them that this is not the way our country is heading. We in Chicago have literally shifted tides (seriously, the Chicago River used to flow east into Lake Michigan, and they reversed it to flow west in 1900 so it would stop polluting the drinking water we got from the lake), and we will do it again.

Many times I have spoken about how sexist men do not listen to women, but they may listen to other men. This is why men need to stand up to their buddies and bros, to call them out when they hear them make sexist and misogynistic jokes or comments. Embarrass them if you must, but make it crystal clear that those behaviors are unacceptable. And it is the same with racism. Call out your friends and family when they make racist comments or jokes. Embarrass them if you have to, and make sure they understand that racism and white supremacist attitudes will NOT be tolerated.

So many people have begun saying things like, “Ugh. Get over it. Calm down! Stop with the political posts!” And to them, I say “Hell no!” I will NOT “get over” the Commander in Chief of the United States of America being vocally and actively against human rights for literally anyone different from him. I will NOT calm down. We will NOT be silenced.

I will leave you with the words of Dylan Thomas, who wrote this poem in reference to his dying father, pleading for him to fight against the darkness of death. But those words work so well with the fight we are fighting, which for so many will literally be a fight against death if they don’t have access to equal protections, or even access to affordable and comprehensive healthcare. We will rage against the dying of that light.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

So keep fighting. Keep protesting. Rage against the dying of the light of liberty and justice for all.

Alicia Wilson is a 2015 graduate of Columbia College Chicago. She manages a dance studio and teaches small children in addition to writing, painting, drawing, and teaching herself contortion. She is a feminist, a nerdfighter, a Harry Potter fan, and a unicorn enthusiast.

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